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February 19, 2013

Gerard Depardieu, tax refugee

(Continued)

American actor Will Smith had a common-sensical reaction when he was in France to promote a movie and asked by an interviewer if he would be willing to pay higher taxes. Of course, he said. Then he was told of the top French rate.

"Seventy-five?" he gulped. "Yeah, that's different, that's different. Yeah, 75. Well, you know, God bless America."

The tax is less fiscal policy than confiscatory policy motivated by unabashed disdain for the wealthy. Hollande is on the record saying, "I don't like the rich."

One wonders what they have ever done to him. Hollande believes that the wealthy owe the state. He is like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on steroids, in a political culture with a much higher tolerance for leftist class politics. For a perpetual creature of the state like the career-politician Hollande, the natural order of things is that he gets to live off the government and Depardieu gets to fund it. That's the definition of "fairness."

Depardieu's critics bash his patriotism. But why is it patriotic to accept financial chastisement by a government headed by someone who is avowedly driven by animus toward you as a member of a targeted class?

It's not as though Depardieu is a scofflaw. He claims that he has paid 145 million euros in taxes during the course of his career and paid an 85 percent rate in 2012. Maybe Hollande should go all the way in the tradition of his hero President Francois Mitterrand - the old school socialist who brought the French economy to its knees in the 1980s - and nationalize Gerard Depardieu.

The French constitutional court ruled against the supertax the other day on technical grounds. The government promises to make adjustments and forge ahead. It can shame Depardieu all it likes, but that won't stop the flow of other, less-famous tax exiles. Hollande doesn't like rich people, and he will duly rule a country with fewer of them. Gerard Depardieu wrote the prime minister to say he's leaving "because you believe that success, creation, talent - difference, in fact - must be punished."

He's right. May he - dare we say it? - prosper in his new home.

(c) 2012 by King Features Syndicate

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